Do you use keyboard shortcuts when you are typing on the computer? Do you have some you use, but not others? For example, as I’ve been writing my new book on my computer, I use the keyboard shortcuts for cut and paste about 100 times a day. But I never use the keyboard shortcut to save my file. I always take my hands off the keyboard and use the trackpad to move my cursor up to the Save icon in the toolbar, and then click on save. Why do I do that?
People will look for ways to do something faster and with less steps — This is especially true if it is a task they are doing over and over. But if the shortcut is too hard to find, or if a habit is ingrained, then people will keep doing it the old way. This seems paradoxical, but it’s all about the amount of perceived work. If it seems like too much work to find a shortcut, then people will stay with their old habits.
Defaults can reduce the amount of work needed to complete a task — When you provide defaults, for example, filling in the person’s name and address automatically on a web form, then there is less work to finish the form. There are some potential problems with defaults. One is that people don’t always notice defaults, and so may end up accepting a default without meaning to. Here again, the answer lies in the amount of effort. If it takes a lot of work to change the result of accepting a “wrong” default, then think twice about using them in your design.
When defaults create more, not less, work — Recently I bought a pair of shoes for my daughter online. The next time I went to the website was to buy a pair of shoes for myself. But the default shipping address was the last address used – my daughter’s, not mine. I didn’t notice that the shipping address had filled in with a default that was not my home address. My daughter was surprised to get a pair of shoes she didn’t ask for (in a style she definitely did not want to wear, and a size that wasn’t hers). In this case, having a default meant a lot more work for both my daughter and myself.
Are there shortcuts you could take but don’t? Are there times when defaults have gotten you in trouble?